The Campus

The Campus

After four days of training to be ESL teachers in Korea, we finally made it to camp four days ago. It feels like everything at camp is evolving at an incredible rate, four days ago feels like a lifetime. This week I started to feel exhaustion, and began to be overwhelmed with how much I love my students.

We arrived at the camp in the afternoon on Tuesday, got our dorms and went walking around the campus before meeting the Principle and head teacher over beer and pizza. Hey it’s Korea…they drink.

The campus is immersed in a forest of trees and green amid the mountains. The buildings, tall and diverse —some look official with domed roofs, others old and rainbow colored—all seem to sprout out of the forest itself. It’s clean and fresh here, and incredibly hilly, two dauntingly steep hills separate the classrooms from the dorms.

At the camp there are 168 students, 13 of us PSU students who are teachers, and 14 Korean co-teachers. There are a number of assistants and supervisors too, a long chain of command to go through with problems, but bosses in Korea seem to be very friendly people.

We teach all of the kids our different class, I am “mazes and directions”, but we also have a homeroom class who we meet with mornings and nights, and work together with on team activities. I am positive mine is the best.

My class is shy, smart, and thinks things out incredibly thoroughly, which can be difficult because we have time limits to complete tasks set for us. But it is also rewarding because I see them playing on one another’s talents to create something they feel is perfect.

Many of these students have never had a foreign English teacher, so our English pronunciation, and our western influence are pretty special to most of them. As I look at my class, I wonder how much my own attitude and character rub off on how the class operates as a whole.

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A few of the top students from this camp will be selected to come to Portland for a month to study. Some of the students I teach are low income or come from small towns, and most were selected because of their love and proficiency in English, so we have a student base which is really skilled at this language. I am able to talk to them like adults, talking slowly, but with advanced English, in complete sentences.

Today I watched my own fault of taking life to seriously, play out in the classroom. As I presented a journal writing assignment, and urged them with ways to improve their writing, I watched many close up out of fear. So I tried to start over, to tell them that this was not something to worry about, that journal writing was a way to express themselves through difficulties and happiness, to forget about the grammar and to write whatever they wanted. For some it was too late, I’d made a misstep in my presenting of the assignment. I put too much pressure on them here in Korea where the pressure is already much too high. And it was here that I began to realize how much I want to care about them.

Earlier in the day I called up two of my students to tell them I appreciated their hard work on a group project, letting them know that I noticed, and in their eyes I saw a depth of their gratitude, which is unimaginable in the US.

With my homeroom I am able to get to know every student, to encourage their strengths. Roy is a natural storyteller. Reo is quiet, but below the surface he has much more going on. In a journal entry he addressed his parents, telling them that he wants to be a movie director, though it is not the job they want for him. Riven will be a politician. Jae Young is a class clown as a defense mechanism. He broke his arm during our school activity competition. He came back the next day happier than before, with something exciting to talk about, but I see the pain and exhaustion getting to him.

Ella is everything, a writer with big dreams from a small town, and an outgoing English speaker. I worry that she is ready for love too. At the end of day four, late in the night, I left her to socialize in a group of boys, afraid for her young emotions, and hopeful that my thirteen year old student would find a boyfriend.

I am beginning to see them care about me too, beginning to see it in their eyes, that they love me too, just a little. And now, as I write this I’m scared. What will change by day ten? Will I be heartbroken leaving them, will they think I’m the best teacher, or prefer another? Will some disaster happen in the relationships I am trying to form with my class?

Now I lay in bed, exhausted at 11 pm, my day began at 6 am, and showed nearly no lulls. My eye lids are growing very weak as I finish these last lines, and outside my window, dozens of kids are yelling, running, playing games and uttering curse words in English. Their energy cannot be matched.

Top tier team captains duel for all the glory in baloon toss 2

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Travelogue: South Korea part 1. Failing at Departure

Teacher training at Jeollanamdo International Football Center

I planned just about nothing before embarking on my one month trip to South Korea. I went through a PSU program worked me hard, fifteen hour days spent teaching children English, but it only cost me about a two hundred dollars to receive a trip to Korea, four credits and an amazing experience.

Though excited, I thought very little about the trip until just before leaving. This may seem strange to readers, but this is how I generally operate. I’m practically unable to travel, unless by the seat of my pants.

So, me, I’m Jon Raby. PSU English major and Vanguard writer. I have actually taught ESL before, I lived in Vietnam for a year and a half, and miss it every day. I have come to find that I have Asian blood in me, not literally, but in my heart, yes. Let’s just say I fucking love rice, I eat it daily, need I say more?

At this point I think I better confess. I have never had much of an interest in Korean culture, it has never called to me. But maybe during this trip I will find an appreciation…even a love.

So here is the program: One month teaching at two summer camps, one for middle school age kids, and one for elementary. I will be paired up with a Korean co-teacher who is a university student. I don’t know what subjects I will be teaching, but the days should be long, and the climate should be hot and humid. There are multiple programs like this at PSU, I suggest looking into them.

In the days before leaving the excitement started to hit me. The bittersweet goodbyes to my home and my loved ones, they were….bittersweet (really pulled the heart-stings).

Before leaving the US I actually decided to learn zero Korean. Not even Hi. I thought I’d rather learn what Korean I get, from Koreans. My first word: Excuse me, sillye-hab-nida. Taught to me by the airline stewardess. Thanks lady.

The travel was long, about 24 hours of sitting uncomfortably in airports, on planes, and in busses. We made it to Mokpo International Football Center at one in the morning. This was to be our training facility for the next few days. I was given a roommate, Justin, who seems pretty rad, not super loud, and outgoing and happy. Most everyone on the trip seemed pretty cool. I guess when only one third of the American population holds a passport, you end up with more likeminded traveling company.

Thus far, the little of Korea I have seen has been quiet and calm despite its reputation for being a “hurry hurry” culture—Pali-pali! People look safe in their relaxed moseys, and it has not been too crowded with bodies. I did see out the window of the bus, the densely packed skyscrapers of the city. Very uniform. Very grid like. In my tired and emotional traveling state, it brought me a kind of wonder and sadness at the same time; humanity thriving outside of nature.

The next morning I woke at 5:30, one of the benefits to jetlag. I went out strolling around the desolate facility. It was mostly empty football fields, and lots of birds and insects chatting away. On the outskirts there was mining and construction going on along the mountainsides. At this time in the morning it was 22 degrees Celsius and humid, really quite nice.

At the camp some of my coworkers have referred to me as oppa, or elder brother. This to me sounded like the German for grandpa—opa—Yup, that’s me. I like it though, the respect that comes from being older.

The training consisted of three days of demo classes, and seminars by other foreign and Korean teachers about the country and teaching there.

We were, and will be, in Jeollanam-do, the southwestern-most mainland province, which is rural and agricultural, and contains about 1,300 islands.

We learned about the extreme pressure put on Korean kids and adults in the education system. As a teacher here I will have a conflicting set of goals. At the end of the camp eight of our highest ranked students will receive trips to study in the US for a month, yet I will also be trying to make this summer camp fun for them, full of games and laughing. The true testaments of a teacher will be here: can I fully engage them while enriching their brains? Can I teach about my culture, while not dissuading the benefits of their own?

I also met my Korean co-teacher for the first camp. Aiden is the English name that I will use for now, or Yul which I will start using soon. But we can save that for next time, when we get to start meeting Koreans, and Korean Children.

Drinking Soju with two girls from University of Missouri and our two Korean babysitters

Staring at my Whiskey

Alone I sit at the old tavern on the corner of my block – dim lights and decaying 80’s hits pull me deeper in my chair. Alas I stair at my glass as my eyes have outworn their welcome on the waitress in front of me, the tattoos already studied on her plump arms and going down onto barely hidden heaving breasts. I’ve watched every ice cube slowly melt away before I take a sip, watched the dark color of my whiskey waiver, and fade away. The water off the cubes forming fine spirals before spreading into the alcohol and killing the bite from its taste. I look around me, to the laughing and flirting of the others in the bar. I loath them in my envy, until my thoughts work hard to convince me otherwise. I hearken to their laughs for they pierce my solitude. They are stupid in their drunkenness, while I am stoic. Moreover I expect their conversation to be well below my musings, even under my own intoxication. Again my gaze shifts to the brown liquid in front of me and blurs as I drift into thoughts of past happiness. I dive into the liquid and come out the other side of the glass. In my mind I am in a hot climate and everyday my life feels purpose in being a foreigner. I hold hands with the one I loved and laugh with friends. The summer rains come and pour down on me, soaking my clothes but within hours they will be baked dry. Walking through back streets with my friend I search for a pool, or break into one later in the night. Where smiles abound and good times blossoms I intercourse with the past. In the bar again a smile cracks my face as I pull from this dream back into reality. With a big gulp I finish my drink and head home.

Escape

My psychologist told me I want to travel as an escape.

I told her NO SHIT!

I want to escape to tropical climates.

To warm, friendly, different people.

To daily adventure and challenge.

To a place where I am exotic and special.

To a vacation mindset.

 

I want to escape a predesigned course of life.

High school, college, career, family, midlife crisis, old age, and then death.

It holds little appeal doesn’t it?

Hell yes I want to escape it.

I want to escape syndicated TV, and a syndicated life.

I want to escape to new problems because I’ve heard the ones in this country before.

I want to get on a bus, not knowing its destination,

And make attempts at communication with the other passengers.

I want to study everyday.

 

Maybe what I really want is to escape psychologists.

I want to be confused about my feelings,

And to avoid posing too many questions to myself.

I want to make bad decisions.

I want to figure things out too.

I want to be lost and find myself,

On a map.

Kuta

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Feeding off the fat of the Ausies.

What is this horrible place boss?

Buy some cheap shit Boss?

Transport Boss?

It’s a wooden hard cock Boss?

One for your keys Boss?

One for your girlfriend Boss?

One to make your friends laugh?

How about a bumper sticker that says, “Kyle is gay”?

Or this one that say, “I drive like a cunt”?

Just come inside Boss?

Cum inside Boss.

Very cheap Boss.

I’m not your boss.”

Will you give me your money?

Yes, maybe.”

Ok Boss.

How about you eat at a restaurant called Naughty or Wicked?

The food is five time more than the local food, but its ribs done just like at home.

You like ribs, right Boss?

Western food – Yay!

 

Fat beer bellies getting burned on the beach.

Disgusting thongs, men and women, and not flip-flops.

Loud drunken crowds.

Offensive to the local’s sense of acceptable public behavior.

 

But they are paying Boss.

Transport Boss?

Very cheap.

Massage? Asks a 13 year old with braces.

Just in case an old pervert is walking by.

 

Go get too much sun, too much food, beer, cheap shit.

Go out to the GO-GO bar and tell your wife you were just getting drunk.

You won’t buy the girl, just have a crack making sexual comments at her.

Oh hello Boss, come in my shop, special deal for you.

Please buy Master.

How much for this wooden cock?”

10 dollars master.

10! No thanks.”

Ok 5.

No, maybe later.”

3?

Uh…”

3 cocks for a dollar, give your friends a cock Boss.

Sold!”

I’ll show it to some local girls!”

They will be disgusted and I’ll get half a boner!,”

And some stories to tell while getting drunk tonight!”

Yelling, “This fucking shop girl kept staring at my cock!”

 

Where you go Boss?

Transport Boss?

Surfboard Bro?

Massage Sir?

Master…

Can I talk you into a spontaneous tattoo?

This tribal is cool.

It’s Indonesian.

What about this cock?

Just like your keychain.

It’s very funny, Boss.

Manduk Village

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I guess the village is about 200 people but I’m not really sure. Most are farmers but the crops are varied; red and white rice alternated every six months (every crop), or cloves sold to cigarette companies, and coffee, they roast it here too. There is also a lot of cacao but there is a fruit fly problem killing more than half of the fruit on most of the trees. These are the major ones that I know of, but they also grow other spices like nutmeg, shallots seem common, today I saw zucchini, cauliflower, lettuce, green beans, chili and many different leafy greens, but I assume these are for local consumption not for export. For fruits I saw Pineapples, papayas, dragon fruits, avocados, bananas and coconuts. I’m sure they grow much more but this is what I’ve seen. It seems like they use most of what grows naturally, not just the very common banana leaf for a plate, which is great, but many leaves can be used to heal and roots, fruits, and flowers. They have learned through the generations what can and can’t be used. I think if you get cancer or some can’t be killed without radiation disease, this is the place to come to get better naturally, or at least to die in paradise.

Despite their herbal cures and healthy variety of food, many still believe that if they get sick it is because of the spirits or bad karma. We went by a house and the girl inside was sick. Obviously I am no doctor and Ary, who I was with, was not either, but all the same Ary tried to comfort her and talked to her, she tried to find out the cause. It seemed like she needed to be asked what she had eaten or been exposed to, to follow a normal line of deductive reasoning that you would ask a child, but it was uncommon here, the girl wanted to see a spiritual healer. In the modern world I guess we are pickier eaters or don’t live directly off the land.

There is a sort of village healer, and old woman about 60, she has a big smile and seems chipper and in good health. She offered me snacks which I liked and remembered me when she saw me walk past her house in the woods. She would know what plants to use to heal different sicknesses and the old natural remedies forgotten in our modern world, not scientifically tested but tested through time and many generations. I would imagine that sometimes she probably heals with a placebo effect, her patients believing in her powers, but I also believe she would know secrets that science either doesn’t know yet or has forgotten.

The village has two chiefs. One is from the government and the other is more related to the church or you could say tribal. The village by the way is basically all the people in the town. The church and the village seem to be one. It turns out I’m staying at the village chiefs house. He seemed a powerful fella and Ary said he was a bit feared and respected, but I just thought he was a rich man, as he owns the restaurant where I stay, a guest house somewhere, a coffee plantation and a rice plantation. They are not huge but they bring in money for sure. Now that I know he is the chief I see he is a bit more than just a rich guy, I see that he holds himself as a man of wisdom and power. He is nice, friendly and incredibly relaxed, but I don’t know if he doesn’t speak English or just doesn’t say much to me. There are often people here talking to him and he always seems very important. His attitude fits his position. The positions of chief, both of them, change every 5 years. The government one is not so important here as things don’t go through the law as much. If there is a dispute they don’t usually go to the law and get witnesses, they go to the village chief and talk it out and a solution is decided upon.

Every new or full moon there is a three day ceremony. Last night was the last night of the full moon ceremony, so he and the healer woman were up until 4 am. I don’t know what the ceremony consisted of but I assume it was like the one I attended the day before: music, praying, dancing and offerings to the gods, but it would be on a smaller scale. The ceremony that I witnessed was four villages combined and the day that most people go. Last night was a private church for this village alone, Munduk. You would probably need to be very dedicated or in need of some serious good luck to be out all night.

The town has many guest houses to make money. It is a bit sad because it equals people coming in and taking pictures of their culture but having very little to do with it. It is also very expensive to tour here. As far as Bali goes there isn’t much culture left that has not been altered by the tourist trade. Today I walked through different farms in the town. I saw where they make fertilizer, and also a small garden next to it . There was a guy who lived there with a wasp tattooed on his forehead. He was a friend of Ary’s so we stopped and talked to him. He made us coffee and cut some cacao for me to eat. It is orange and oval shaped, gourd-like but not perfectly oval, it’s ribbed. The part you could eat was a white coating around the bean, kind of like pith around the beans, very sweet full flavored and a little citrusy and rich. It was really delicious until you bit into the incredibly bitter seed, or bean, which is what makes the chocolate. We met another guy who gave me some red rice seeds to plant at home. There are lots of workers in the village who go from crop to crop as harvesters. I guess the village chief pays more than others, he does 1/3 of profits for red rice which is normal, and 2/3 for white which I think is a bit high for here. The workers usually take product as pay rather than money.

Our mission for the day was to go to his coffee plantation. We went past a sixty-or-so-foot waterfall that I had seen the day before, and met a woman and her son, and a dog named Bobo with his two very amusing puppies. They invited us in for bananas, coffee and to talk. We then met the husband and their younger daughter who was very cute. I watched the dogs and chickens mostly, as I had no idea what they were talking about in Bahasa, then Ary said it was time to go back to the house. We were at the coffee plantation and I didn’t even realize it. So the guy offered to take us into the property further to see more. I’m sure this made Ary happy too, but I think she waits till things are offered, and isn’t pushy, so my innocent unawareness was a bit helpful.

I didn’t see too many trees, because I don’t think it was a very big place. Maybe plantation just referred to the fact that there was a land owner and someone who worked the property and lived on it. It was on a many levels, built on the side of the steep hill just like the rice fields and everything else, in a stair step pattern. We past some workers who offered…more coffee. No thanks, if I had had the three cups offered so far, I would be so jittery, but I had declined them all because I drank one at the house already and caffeine hits me hard.

The man showed us how he was splicing in a new strain from a different area. It was organic as was most everything here. He cut off a branch, then cut the stem diagonally about an inch, then the same to a small piece of new stem, connected them, cut sides touching, and finally wrapped them in a thin strip of plastic. Then he put a small bag over the top, though I’m not sure why, maybe to keep in moisture, and make it humid. Another way he did it was to cut the new stem diagonally on the left and right of one side. Then he just cut a slit down the still growing stem and slid the new into the old, then again the plastic bandage and the bag over the top. The coffee tree starts to yield at about year three and is about 4 ft tall. Its branches grow wide and the new leaves are really shiny green or reddish green. Because of their shininess my first thought was it might be some versions of poison oak. You can only harvest the coffee beans once a year but it is still a profitable business and Indonesia produces tons of it. Why do you think we nicknamed coffee Java?

Then we walked back home. It’s a slow, quiet, peaceful walk with Ary. The forest around us is lush and green and dotted with colorful flowers. We pass houses and can look inside of them and see people now and then. And step over a steam now and again too. When we see people they are happy to see me, nod hello and continue on with what they are doing.

Off to the Rice Fields

I woke at 6 am. Yes I cannot believe it either but I did go to sleep around 10 the night before so I guess it’s not too surprising. I sat with Ary and two of her friends showed up, Galle and Hastate, I think were their names. The girl did research here and I’m not sure about the guy, but he graciously said he could take me around Denpasar and help me find seeds to take home. They all, but mostly Ary told me about other local plants or fruits that have healing properties. She had had cancer and beat it, four operations she said but still beaten. I did not ask what kind of cancer but my first guess is cervix.

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They left and Ary and I took off. Down the road and then down another smaller turn off. It was basically a one lane road but bigger than the pathway of last night. She told me about different plants as we walked past them.

There was a small stream and we walked along a path next to it. I don’t remember if it was a turn off or the road just became this. On either side of the stream were rice fields. It looked like there were places where you could stick a board in the stream, damming it, and it would flood your property. I was reminded of my old irrigation on the Clay St. property of my youth.

At one of the rice fields we walked out into it. The fields here are special because they are stair-stepped one below another so that the water floods from one to the next. The fields are on the side of a mountain so this is kind of necessary. Each paddy is in a small section, maybe 10 by 30 meters, some smaller and probably some bigger. We went up to the owners little house in the middle of the property, I later learned they were just care takers, the land owner doesn’t do the work of farming. They watched us walk up with smiles on their faces. This has been my experience in most of South East Asia, no anger or suspicion at someone on their property, no idea of trespassing or claim of ownership. They don’t suspect you to steal something, or to ruin something that can’t be fixed.

They didn’t speak English so I just said “Hallo” and Ary did all the talking. She wants to make records of the culture because most of Bali is now just for tourists. There is not going to be any of the old culture left soon. It will be a new culture, a salesman culture, not traditional or living off the land.

DSCF5666 They offered us a seat and food right away. I sat but didn’t know what they were talking about so I got up to take pictures. Their home is on the side of a large mountain. Most of the mountain is trees, except for the place cleared, what looks like a long time ago, and made into a livable, workable property. It is a small house and about 2 acres of rice. When you look across the valley to the mountain next, you see from a distance dense trees of dark green, then cut outs with bright green rice fields patched across the mountain side. You can see the many different levels of the fields too and there are patches of palm trees around the fields and a house, usually centered on the property

DSCF5675The people’s house that I was at had a few papaya trees and some ponds right next to the house. In the ponds were hundreds of fish, and the furthest pond the fish were one foot to one and a half, and some orange coy, as the rest were thinner grey fish. The fish poop and fertilize the water. In the water they grow morning glory, and the water flows into the rice patties to fertilize them. I didn’t see much else growing so I guess they buy or trade for other vegetables.

Along the front of the different rice paddies is a path to walk which is higher and holds in the water. There are ½ foot cut outs here to let it drain into the next pond. On the corners there are steps cut into the soil to go up to the next level, but not at every corner so it is a bit of a maze to get to where you want to go. This style horticulture, of stair stepping the paddies and letting the water run down from one to the next is special, and one of the cultural techniques that may be lost to them in the near future.

DSCF5684 I think you could stand for hours looking out across the mountains. The sky, this bright blue. The different greens of the mountains. I think it’s all alive, other than the rare house or a road if you can spot one, which is unlikely. It’s all alive. Even the people here are more alive. They talk. And they just sit. And they work. One of the older guys had lost many of the teeth, something that I have problems with. His fronts were ok but his backs were mostly gone, he just had one good pair that looked pretty weak and dying. I stared his two usable teeth for a while. He was probably 50. And I imagine he will be out pulling rice and working hard in 3 days when the harvest comes. Like I said when we showed up, they were sitting. Resting. The oldest man – maybe 60 – started sharpening the blades of some scythes and the hoe. They were harvest yet and had no TV to watch or computer to waste their time on. Their house was a few rooms with no ceilings. They had a roof but basically there was no sound privacy and the bugs could do whatever they pleased. The house was concrete and cold. Not much on the walls. Not much color. Life is outside, the room is for sleep. Now I must say this is the rare case and these are old, poor people. Most people, especially kids have smart phones and want to be like the west. Processed foods are moving in and Facebook is king. But they still talk and laugh and have a good time in a close personal way, without alcohol most of the time.

Ary finished talking with them. Took a picture of the woman and man. The woman looked away from the camera and tried to act natural and to laugh and be beautiful, but she was very self-conscious. I think the man was similar but I didn’t watch him while his picture was being taken. Then we left and made our way through the maze, climbing up from level to level. I had forgotten my notebook and they yelled for me. I would have been very sad if I had lost it, or had to go far back to get it. We got to the next property, very close by, and I sat and looked out at the valley and imagined a life here. So boring but so much more fulfilling. My heart and soul nourished, but maybe my brain bored, wanting videogames or something stupid like keep my brain active but my heart numb. I thought of marrying an Indonesian woman and having a farm. My mind jumped ahead to how much happier I would be when I died, though it would not be an easy life. The farmers I met did not own the property, there was someone else who had many places and they got about  50% of the money earned from the harvest. Maybe I could be that guy. Or start an English school on the side. Or even have a hostel or farm-stay to bring in more money. And also…my mind went quiet. And I just sat. So quiet out there. So much to take in, but all of it simple. So peaceful.

We walked back to the stream and saw a mother and her son collecting coconuts. We went to their shop and drank one. They had two dogs, a cat and some chickens. I think the family was a husband, wife, two sons and a daughter. The boys played football, the man talked with a friend and the wife cut open our coconut and did dishes. The little girl picked up a pole and walked down the mountain out of my view. When we left I asked how much and she said “up to you.” I was very confused as was Ary, but up to me. I gave her 10,000, about one dollar. I guessed it would normally be 5,000 but she was nice and if up to me better to be generous that cheap I guess. I think she was smart and figured I’d over pay this way, and she didn’t have the guilt of charging me more than normal.

We walked back to the house. It had been about three hours. I wrote and was ready to sleep, but I didn’t think it was a good idea so I walked to a waterfall Ary had told me about. She told me the back way. I got lost for a second but then a little kid told me the way and then a woman with a baby whose dog wanted to eat me did the same. The waterfall was very nice. The way back was all uphill and my legs were very tired from 4 days of intense workout. I was actually getting overwhelmed by all the great things I had been seeing and experiencing. I think some of them had far less of an impact because I had been amazed so much already. So the waterfall was really special but I have few details recollect, it was just peaceful.

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